Seasons Change

Two weekends ago was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

Late Saturday afternoon, I headed out for a leisurely drive to my parents ’house. It was a glorious fall day, the country roads lined with trees, full with leaves of red, orange, purple and yellow. Fall had officially arrived 2 weeks prior but the trees were only now fully reflecting the change of season. Driving past, they moved fast in my periphery, like a slideshow and before I knew it, so too did the memories of Thanksgiving’s past.

During my childhood years, my family would travel to spend the long weekend with relatives. It was a huge gathering of extended family and yet, in all those years with all those people, I carry only one memory that rivals my food memories.

The Erin Fall Fair.

Erin was the name of the town in which my relatives lived. I remember naively thinking that I’d be coming to this fair, every year, for the rest of my life and that our Thanksgiving tradition would never die.

As the years moved forward, my family continued the traditional weekend away. My vivid memories are mostly of the food … the obligatory golden roast turkey… my elderly aunt’s annual mandarin salad contribution… and an endless array of home baked desserts, the pinnacle of my long awaited eating spree. But the beloved fall fair was still there and now teen romance was in the mix. Aside from the food, the most exciting time was nightfall, when just “the cousins” and our partners would head to the fair. My boyfriend and I walked hand in hand, stealing as many kisses as possible without the adults around. I remember naively thinking that for the rest of my life, I’d be holding hands with this boy and our long weekend tradition would never die.

Over the next 10 years, my family continued the traditional weekend away and while the fair was still there, some of my family members were not. Back then it just seemed like, “that’s life” and for me, nothing about the weekend itself had changed. By now, all of “the cousins” were in our 20s and I had met the man who would become my fiancée. I couldn’t wait to introduce him at Thanksgiving weekend and walk the fair with him. I remember naively thinking this was just the first of many years to come, sharing this long weekend tradition.

The following year, my relatives sold their home and moved to a big city. Some of “the cousins” had married, some had moved… suddenly, things had changed. I remember feeling such grief. I wished I’d known what would be our last Thanksgiving with all the cousins in that house, in the tiny Town of Erin, walking through the fall fair. I wished I could go back, to catch what I’d missed…to savour more than just the food.

Over the next 20 years or so, life moved on and I had cultivated quite a career in hospitality. I spent every Thanksgiving deeply involved at work. I was managing a high end bakery, working double shifts and missing out on all the family gatherings. The years were passing and as “they” say, the seasons of my life had changed.

As I pulled into my parents ’driveway, I was back in the present. I opened their door and stepped inside. No smell of turkey roasting or pies baking. No relatives visiting. My mother stood at the top of the stairs, her health not allowing her to come down and greet me as she always has. My dad welcomed me, his sore shoulders rendering him unable to help with my bags. Penny (our pug) was sleeping so sound, her age preventing her from even hearing me come in. There was no naïve thinking, things had changed.

In that moment I realized, each of us is in a different season and the seasons are always changing. I was reminded how much of my life I took for granted, how much of it passed me by while living in active addiction and looking beyond the moment. Thankfully, I am now living my life in a season of recovery. I can’t change the past (nor would I want to) but I can acknowledge what is made possible in my life, only through a program of recovery.

It turns out, this was our last Thanksgiving with sweet Penny the pug, she passed 2 days later. I am so grateful that recovery gives me the ability to be fully present, to focus on who and what is in my life, right here, right now. Recovery gives me access to all that comes from living in the moment, in turn, allowing me to peacefully weather whatever comes when the seasons change.



Fragility As Strength In Recovery

What has happened to me?  When did this happen?  How did I get so fragile? These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself (and others in my support network) lately.  I have been in recovery now most of my life…since I was 24.  Who was I before recovery?  I know I was a scared child.  Out of concern for keeping us safe, my mother instilled huge amounts of fear into my sister and me.  We were taught not to trust anyone…that the world was inherently a bad place where everyone was lying, cheating, stealing and out to get us.  I know I was terrified to go to school and leave my mom.  I cried and screamed.  I was a gentle soul, I know that.  I was soft inside…”a cream puff” so to speak.  I was very smart, did well in school, had a few friends and LOVED animals.  I would sit outside with the neighborhood cat asleep on my lap for long periods of time, when my friends were playing.  I was afraid of everything.  I got bullied for a short while in school.  The boys picked on me at my new school in 5th grade.  I cried a lot.  Then there was a turning point.   There was a time in about 7th or 8th grade when I decided it was too painful to go on like that.  I decided to change.  I somehow learned to shut that sensitive side of me down…turn it off.  I became the bully…the wise guy, the class clown, the instigator, the sneak & liar.  It was easier that way.  IT HURT LESS.  


I spent my high school years living a dual life-excelling at school, sports & clubs, while having an alter ego-the wise guy, the class clown, the instigator, the sneak & liar.  And now, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes & boys entered the mix.  I started skipping school & getting black out drunk on weekends with friends, running around with boys & men. Screw you, world!  You’re not going to hurt me!  I’ll hurt you first!  I don’t care about anyone!  I don’t need anyone!  And so it continued.  From that day forward, my outer persona changed.  Those of you who know me likely see the strong side of me-the clown, the brave one, the one who cusses & speaks her mind, the one who adventures out in the world and does things others fear. That is not the real me.


I am soft.  I am gentle.  I love & care deeply.  I hurt deeply.  I care what others think.  I want to help.  I am afraid…so very afraid…of everything…all the time.  And the way I manage is by functioning at a very high level…staying very busy.  I can do anything!  Watch me run with my hair on fire!  My family wonders at all I can accomplish in a day.  It is who I have been, at least on the outside, for decades.  I have a career of service to others.  I get paid to take care of others & help fix their problems.  I am uber competent.  I am smart, strong, determined, organized, motivated, energetic, resourceful, FIERCE…a force to be reckoned with!  I will mow down any obstacles in my way.  I will “get ‘er done” as they say here in the South.  Nothing seems to get in my way…at least not for too long.  Unstoppable.  And I have come to know & see myself in this way.


But things have changed in the last few years.  I am now 53.  I am a food addict.  My other addictions have been in remission for decades…but not this one.  I have had brief reprieves followed by years of relapse, of despair, of gaining 50 lbs, of self-hatred & remorse, of fear, self-doubt, anger at God & the world…all while remaining highly functioning where no one knew there was anything wrong!  I found Shift last year, in 2021.  I went to a week-long intensive in May.  And my life changed.  I was supported to take some time off of work after the intensive.  I filed for FMLA & took an entire month off, followed by working part-time for a while. Unheard of!   It was SO hard for me to let go of the fast pace…to take care of myself & let myself relax…slow down…gear down a few notches.  I started back to full-time work in January of this year.  I was rear-ended in early January but not seriously injured.  A sign?  A message?  Well, I don’t hear messages unless they’re blaring!  And my God knows how to turn up the volume!  I decided to start following my dream of getting an RV, obtaining a travel or telehealth job & going traveling.  I gave notice at my job at the end of February & 3 days later, got into a horrendous head-on collision & narrowly escaped alive.  I was hospitalized for almost a week with a mild head/brain injury from concussion that resulted in a very scary electrolyte imbalance.  I never went back to that job & have not worked full-time since.  I have a part-time telehealth job now.  I sold my condo, moved in with my mom who has terminal cancer, my RV travels are on hold & I got COVID pretty badly in July.


So here is the crux of my message.  Finally, Mary!  Get to the point!  LOL.  I am fragile.  I cannot run with my hair on fire anymore.  I get tired.  My body has been through a lot.  I am only 6 months out from a mild brain injury from the concussion.  My body was injured in the accident.  I am in menopause.  I have problems regulating my body temperature.  I am 53. I need naps, breaks, rest.  I am not working full-time right now.  I am very easily overstimulated, especially by noise.  I can’t multitask as well.  I can no longer carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I am a food addict.  My absolute priority is abstinence.  “Abstinence first…always.”  My food plan takes thought, time, consideration, planning, implementation, energy. My recovery behaviors take time, commitment, and determination.  Recovery IS a full-time job.  I have come full circle.  I am fragile once again.  I am as if a child. I have to take care of myself, set limits, set boundaries, sleep, rest, stay abstinent, prepare my food, attend meetings, exercise, work, be a good friend, daughter, sister, niece, sponsor, sponsee, member of several recovery programs, neighbor, citizen.  I am fierce in different ways!  I am strong in different ways!  I am aging.  Can I accept all of this?  What choice do I have?  I pray to my higher power to help me with accepting these things.  Let my life of service continue, but with self-care and recovery as my ultimate priorities.  I AM FRAGILE BUT STILL FIERCE!  Peace, my friends.  Here is a poem I wrote yesterday:




Fragile as a flower

Morning dew heavy on my petals

I’m frightened, Lord.


Fragile as a flower

Trying to stand strong in the wind

What happens if I fail?


Fragile as a flower

Needing roots and support

I can’t do this alone.


Fragile as a flower

No longer so strong

Can I ask for help?


Fragile as a flower

Afraid of my wilting

I turn my face to the sun.


Fragile as a flower

Strong in different ways now

Can I accept this change?


Fragile as a flower

I trust in my God.

I am perfect as I am.



Mary Anast, APRN

Certified Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

How Strong Am I?

“How strong are you?” and “Show me your muscles!” were phrases asked and heard in my family growing up. Strength in my family equated with physical size and I was happy to oblige the larger and larger girth that showed my strength. In my family strength not only meant physical size, but it also meant that there were no problems. You see, you can’t be strong and have a difficulty. We were an idyllic family, or so I was told. We were a happy family, or so I was told. A happy family with depression, workaholism, obesity run rampant, rage as a daily occurrence, and sexual indiscretions abounding. One BIG happy family.

I was reflecting on what the “problem” was that no one was talking about. It couldn’t be addiction, after all, no one was abusing alcohol or doing drugs, so I was told over and over again, “there is no addiction here.” Yet, sugar, flour, and fat poured out of the kitchen and into our mouths with the vigor of an alcoholic searching for a necessary drink, or the drug addict jonesing for the next hit. No addiction to be seen here. No acknowledgment of the rageaholics, workaholics, food addicts, porn addictions, or the denial that covered it all. In fact, 12-step groups were disdained and made fun of in my family. No one dare admit to being an addict. We were an idyllic family after all, better than the rest in our community.

Why the taboo around problems and most of all around addiction? It was because we were all too “strong” to admit defeat. No one wanted to upset the precariously teetering apple cart, full to the brim with problems and deformed wheels with chunks taken out from the wear and tear of life. Vulnerability was seen as a weakness to be avoided at all costs. We were taught that if we were vulnerable others would take advantage of us in horrible ways, never mind the terrible ways in which we treated each other. We were an idyllic family after all.

Addiction abounded because they were the most effective coping strategy we had. They did the job of keeping us all alive. Thank you, God, for addiction. It saved me many a time. My physical strength or at least wide girth made the pain hurt less. Until one day, addiction was no longer a saving grace but a huge disgrace.

It has taken me years to learn that my strength is not in my physical size or in my ability to deny problems. My weakness is my greatest strength. Strength is risking to surrender my addictive substances and behaviors to my loving and merciful Higher Power. Strength is admitting my powerlessness and defeat. Strength is being vulnerable with myself, my Higher Power, and others. Vulnerability is strength, great strength. It takes much courage to be vulnerable. That vulnerability allows me to trust that my addictions are no longer taboo to me. They are what have given me new life. They have set me on a path to freedom. Free to see myself more clearly. Free to love my life. Free to love others. I no longer live in an idyllic family. When I am asked “How strong am I?” My answer is clear, “As strong as I am vulnerable.”

Lisa K

Turn The Page

Food has played a significant role in my life, it has served to be my greatest source of pleasure, purpose and pain. It has given me my highest highs and taken me to my lowest lows. It has provided me with a means of connection and it has lured me into total isolation. It’s been complicated to say the least.

My birthday is coming up and every year as it approaches, I look back, mentally flipping through the “book” of my life. With each day that I’m alive, another page is written. There are countless characters and countless plot lines but in almost every chapter, Food is a main character, secondary to me.

In this moment, I open the book to “1977”, the year that I went from a “normal” child to a chubby child. I’m at the part where the doctor suggests that I see a nutritionist….

The nutritionist was a kind lady, she taught me all about weighing and measuring my food and introduced me to the concept of “portion control”. She explained that adhering to this practice would result in me “returning to a normal weight”. Sometimes, it felt rather clinical when she came to greet me, dressed in her long white lab coat. In her office were lifelike, rubber replicas of every food imaginable and while I wondered why I never saw another kid there, I didn’t mind having those all to myself to play with. At some point, I can’t say exactly when, I was no longer an innocent 6 year old playing with rubber strips of bacon and sunny side up eggs. I was a 6 year old striving to manage my food and weight so that I could be “normal” like all the other kids at school, “normal” like my brother, “normal”.. like I used to be.

There began a 40 year cycle of binging, restricting, dieting and over exercising. There began a relentless obsession with food, body image and weight. There began a tormented love-hate relationship with food. There began my life in active food addiction.

It wasn’t just about what I ate, it was about my state of mind. What I weighed and what I ate determined my mood. If I was adhering to a diet or losing weight, I felt powerful and proud. If I ate “off plan”, missed a workout or gained weight, I felt guilty and weak. But no matter what I ate and no matter what I weighed, one thing never changed. I lacked peace of mind. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel at least one of the following emotions; defeated, disgusted, deprived..sad, self conscious, guilty… angry, punished, less than….rebellious, determined, depressed…shameful, helpless, hopeless. All because I couldn’t consistently control my food and weight.

Now I flip forward by thousands of pages and open the book near the end of “2017”. I’m at the part where I discover what “food addiction” is and my heart

aches at the painful scene that details what it feels like to discover that I am an addict. I turn the page and the story takes a hopeful turn, there’s great relief in finally knowing what is wrong, even greater relief when the promise of a solution is revealed.

With each page I turn, Food shows up less, making room for the development of three new characters, Recovery, Community and Higher Power. Gradually, these characters are woven into the story, until they are so prominent that the story begins to read like a whole new book.


Now I’m at the part where I’ve made peace with food and my body. I’m at the part where cravings and feelings of deprivation no longer exist. I’m at the part where I no longer binge eat, restrict or exercise my body beyond a reasonable edge. I’m at the part where the story keeps getting better.

I encourage everyone to believe that a hopeful turn is possible, no matter what your story is. If you’re reading this, you’ve made your way to SHiFT and that means Recovery can be a part of your story too.

I don’t know what’s left to be written in my book of life but I do know there’s always hope in turning the page.


Summer Vibes

Last week, the yoga studio that I belong to advertised a special event class. 108 sun salutations to mark the official arrival of summer. One might think my reaction would have been, “108 sun salutations!?!?”, but instead it was, “Arrival of summer!?!?”. Summer had apparently snuck up on me, though that shouldn’t have been surprising, since I’ve never looked forward to it.

And yet, as I mulled over the reality that summer was here, I noticed an energy rising, a sudden eagerness flooded me. In my mind flashed all sorts of plans and ideas.. sunrise walks on the beach, meeting friends on patios, new cooking class recipes…

I wondered if this excitement was what others referred to as “summer vibes”.

For as many years as I can recall, I’ve said that I hate summer. I was curious about my feelings in this moment and how they contrasted with this life long belief . It was a perfect day weather-wise, I felt compelled to soak it up. I grabbed a blanket, tumbler of iced tea, notebook and pen. I jumped in the car and headed to the local waterfront, where there’s a harbour, small beach and picnic grounds.

I set myself up under a tree, half in the shade, half in the sun. Pen in hand, I was ready to write my next blog. I took a moment to meditate on “summer vibes”. Opening my eyes, I was shocked to be fully immersed in the moment, all of my senses engaged. My pen fell from my hand just as it would in the classic “dramatic drop” of a movie scene.

I saw a bright blue sky, fading to white where it met the water out on the horizon. Sailboats floated by, across a glittering Great Lake. Happy dogs bounced along the boardwalk, their ears blowing in the wind. Shrieks of laughter carried far and wide as children splashed unsuspecting siblings in the water. My tongue still tingled with the taste of peppermint tea. A gentle breeze not only offered relief from the sun but also wafted towards me the smells of a feast, sizzling on a grill nearby.

In this moment, I felt like it was love at first sight, with summer. Suddenly, I remembered that for most of my life, I was in active food addiction, obsessed with my weight and ashamed of my body. Before recovery, I didn’t have the ability to be present the way I do today. I didn’t have the capacity to fully appreciate my surroundings the way I do today.

I thought hard, “there must have been a time that I enjoyed summer”. I closed my eyes and went back through the years, as far as I could. I searched for the memories from days long ago, before the diets, before the self consciousness, before the obsession with food. I asked myself to find the earliest memories of what summer meant to me.

Again, I experienced being fully immersed in a moment, all of my senses engaged. As if by time travel, I was experiencing the sweltering heat of a dark summer night in the early 1970s… I felt my dad’s arm around me, I smelled the last trace of Coppertone on his skin. I saw us sitting on the patio and heard us laughing as we watched the living room TV from outside. I tasted the cherry popsicle that was melting away, faster than I could eat it…

This vivid memory seemed to be the key that unlocked a treasure chest for me. The memories continued to rush in … nights at the drive in…lemonade stands…afternoons at the beach… my mother in a polka dot bikini… picnics in the park…bike rides in the sun…late nights…no school…baseball games… running through the sprinkler and drinking from the hose… my dad in his vegetable garden…strawberry patches… sand castles…fireworks…my birthday…The Sonny and Cher Show…theme parks…fireflies…waterslides…frisbee…swimming pools… cottages…campfires…corn on the cob… sunsets… starry nights…

All of these memories, all of these joys, all of the things that summer once meant to me, I’d long forgotten. It turns out that “I hate summer” was just another lie that my disease told me. Just another lie which enabled my food addiction and made my life small.

Living in recovery allows me to connect to my higher power, giving me an opportunity to develop my highest self. Living in recovery allows me to rediscover the forgotten and cherished parts of me. For the first time in decades, I felt “summer vibes” again.

Trust that your higher power can and will open your life back up to the greatest gifts, even the ones that were long forgotten.



Accompanied In Recovery

While leading a shift strong call, one of the SHiFT community members expressed feelings of grief and sadness. Another member offered poignant feedback in one simple sentence. “Let your fellows accompany you in your grief”.

“… accompany you…”, the words flowed with graceful beauty and within the context of grief, they tugged at my heart. Yet hours later, the word “accompany” still rang in my ears. Contemplating it’s meaning, “to go somewhere with (as a companion)”, I suddenly felt its gravity, within the context of recovery.

Addiction isolates us in several ways. Social isolation is easily noticed. In the physical sense, it literally separates us from others. Emotional isolation is inconspicuous and in my experience, far more deceptive. It can happen regardless of who and what exists in our everyday life. We may have family, friends and even a well functioning social network yet somehow, we seem to be lacking something. We can’t understand how even when life appears to be full, we get a sense that we are hovering in a space of emotional distance.

At some point in life, we may have gotten the message that it is safer not to share our thoughts and feelings. If expressing our true feelings and ideas continually led to an aftermath of painful emotions, the price was too high. In order to survive, we had to adapt by learning to avoid sharing feelings. With a lack of emotional interaction, comes lack of emotional support, this renders us unable to

share our feelings and thus, incapable of genuine connection with others.

Beyond this, emotional isolation has the potential to completely numb us. Disconnected from our bodies and our thoughts, we may find ourselves unable to even identify our feelings. But there is hope! With the right support, we can reestablish and develop all of these vital connections.

Recovery requires connection.

Peer support (fellowship) is a beautiful first step towards connecting with others. A bond is created when fellows discover they are not alone. Fellowship provides opportunities to be present with each other, to practice listening and to have the courage to share personal experiences.

Fellowship is not meant to judge, control or counsel but to lay a foundation of safe emotional interactions, upon which genuine connection can be built.

Let your fellows accompany you in your recovery. Let them go with you to the places that are painful, scary and unfamiliar. Let them go with you to the places that are enlightening, healing and loving. Let them go with you to all the “somewheres” that lead you to your highest, connected self.


P.S. If this post resonated with you and you’d like more support developing your highest self, I encourage you to explore the weekly mindfulness and meditation classes with Gina. As a participant, it has been a significant addition to my program of recovery and self care.